A thirty year old man recently told me the following dream: “I’m in a room. It seems to be a pizza place. There are four tires stacked in the corner. There is a girl with special powers living there with her parents (who seem to be like my parents). I am going to meet this girl. The parents bring her into the room and introduce her as if they are showing her off, saying something like: “This girl has very special powers.” She doesn’t like this kind of attention, almost like they’re bragging about her. She becomes upset, and changes into a toddler. Then a woman comes to the door and knocks, she’s looking for help or maybe asking directions. Nobody inside the room can help her so she goes away. The toddler opens the door and runs after her to help her. I see him running down the street, he’s holding a sword. I think this is not good, it’s dangerous for a toddler to be out on the street by himself. I wake up…”
My first attempt at orientation was to pose the question what is this dream asking for? As the dreamer and I pondered this it quickly became clear to both of us that the dream wants him to make a connection with the girl. So–what prevents this from happening? The bragging introduction by the parents. The parents energy throws her off, upsets her, and in fact causes her to disappear; she morphs into the toddler and suddenly an opportunity for an important connection is lost.
Next we did an inner/outer check on all the key players in the dream; we need to be clear about who is standing for what in this dream drama. I asked the dreamer: Do you intuitively feel that the girl with the special powers is a part of you, or is she a depiction of someone in your life? “I think she’s a part of me” he replied.What part? “My powers of knowing things about people, my intuition.”
What about the toddler, is he also a part of you? “Yes. He would be the young part of me that always tries to help people. I’ve always been like that, since I was a child. But it’s dangerous for him to do that by himself, he’s too young.”
And what about the parent figures–inner or outer? “I think they are outer parents. They’re like my actual parents. The way they throw her off in the dream, I’m always being thrown off by them in my life.” So, when we add it all together– the dream presents a situation in which he is about to meet an inner part with special powers; the meeting is thrown off by the parental figures; this causes the disappearance of the part that holds the special powers, which now morphs into a young inner part that rushes about trying to help people. I asked him if he recognized this pattern in his life. He knew that it connected to his career–as he was working to establish his new health care practice he needed to connect to his powers of insight and intuition, but he had trouble doing so and he often felt more like the toddler with the sword chasing after people to help them. The trouble often seemed to be exacerbated by exposure to his parents who had the effect of throwing him off his center and making him feel anxious and under-confident for days. This was a resonant connection for both of us.
This dream contains a motif that I have noticed many times–the presence of a parental influence which prevents something very important from happening. It is a good example of what I call a family field motif. These motifs show us how we are still caught up in the old familial force fields that were developed in our childhoods and that can still easily re-assert themselves when we have contact with our parents and siblings (or someone who reminds us of them).
The dreamer was very clear that he wanted to make a connection with the young girl. But the dream seemed to suggest that this would not be possible if the parents were present. So we were looking for a response that would move the desired encounter away from the disturbing force-field that held sway in the parents’ pizza room. I asked him to visualize meeting the girl and walking out of the pizza room with her. He imagined the two of them sitting together in a park, exploring their powers and how they might be developed and used. Now, in the dreamer’s imagination, the meeting that the unconscious wanted was actually starting to happen.
I asked him to repeat this visualization exercise seven more times. In my experience repetition is valuable when it comes to family field (and all the limiting field) problems. A dream motif like this is depicting a matrix of influence that has existed for most of the dreamer’s life, it will not miraculously disappear just through being recognized; the dreamer must do the hard work of finding the way out. Translating to waking life–he must not only learn to recognize when contact with his parents is throwing him off, but he must be able to do something about it which is protective and proactive. If he finds himself feeling like a sword-wielding toddler in his practice he must catch himself and find a way back to center.
I also asked him to move to the second level of response, the ritual level; to find a talisman of some kind that would remind him of the girl with special powers. Ritual responses, which lie in the overlap between imaginal and actual, are particularly well-suited when the goal is to encourage the dreamer to hold onto a positive image and not let it slip away or be forgotten. He said that he would find a pendant to wear around his neck; whenever he was in a situation where it was important to access his intuition he could be aware of the pendant and remember the girl.
We all experience the family field phenomenon to some degree. As empowered and evolved as we may be in various aspects of our lives most of us can be rattled and disempowered when we are in the presence of a key familial figure, or anyone who has a similar energy to that figure. The family field dream signals us that it is time to do something about this old quagmire; to identify how the whole thing works, how it gets triggered, what is at stake, and how we can find a way out.